Put together South Africa’s largest forest, an impressive lagoon flanked by pristine beaches and surround it all with majestic mountains and voila – family paradise!
A little while back, Ralph and I were hiking through Knysna’s ancient forest, walking silently with just our thoughts for company. In between our quiet contemplation, I heard our tour guide mention that the trail we were on was the route used by Knysna Scootours and my ears perked right up. As much as we adore putting one foot in front of the other in South Africa’s most spectacularly wild and unspoilt locations, our teenage boys find this somewhat “lame” and far prefer to dash at death defying speeds through nature’s best playgrounds.
And so, we returned with our boys in tow to discover what delights Knysna has up it’s sleeve for families.
First up on our list had to be our original inspiration for our adrenalin pilgrimage – Knysna Scootours. Swiss “Monster” scooters were designed for use in the Alps during Europe’s summer season on the ski slopes when the snow has melted and skiing is not viable. With no snow on the horizon but plenty of mountains, South Africa was ripe for this adventure activity and the clever people at Scootours imported a bunch of these green monsters which they now offer as an ideal family activity in lofty locations around our beautiful country.
We met up with the Scootours team at Thesen Island, piled into their van and headed out into the Rheenendal forest, where to our teens’ horror we donned luminous safety vests, fingerless gloves and blue helmets and listened to a safety briefing before being given control of the green speed machines.
At first, I was amazed by how quiet these massive bright green two wheelers were. Gliding downhill on our non-motorised scooters made no more sound than the crunching of gravel under the wide tyres. In fact, I reckon that this mix of stealthy silence and downhill speed probably gives you the best chance of running (at impressive velocity) right into the last remaining Knysna elephant, who literally would not hear you coming.
After three separate downhill runs, we had not bumped into any elephants but our kids had huge grins and were openly thanking us for bringing them on this adventure which is a huge parenting win!
We headed back into town to check into our hotel for the weekend, the lovely Oyster Creek Lodge. What Scootours did to elevate our heart rates, Oyster Creek was the perfect opposite match.
The wooden lodge sits on its own spit all the way at the end of a little area called “The Point”. It is surrounded by 270 degrees of pristine views of the Knysna estuary.
The lodge exudes a sense of peaceful calm and serenity and you can literally sit on the deck the entire day watching the sun rise right over and fall behind you.
It was quite apt that we travelled during a Blue Moon, as it is equally rare that we get the time to sit quietly and watch while the setting sun in the West is replaced with a gigantic full moon in the East. And the enormous yellow moon pulled the tide into a spring high and low which made the gentle ebbing and flowing of the estuarine waters over the green reed beds a spectacle to behold.
After a delicious breakfast, we watched lodge manager, Gerhard feeding his wild feathered friends, who all adore their morning treat of cheese and gather in flocks around the lodge to take their turn to catch their tasty morsels. Cian was delighted when Gerhard gave him a turn and a fork-tailed drongo landed right on his hand to eat.
Gerhard’s oldest bird is a long legged and wide eyed beauty – a spotted dikkop called Priscilla, who has been nesting in the lodge for 13 years and is clearly besotted by Gerhard and his daily cheese.
Next up on our adventure list was The Featherbed Company’s newly relaunched Eco Experience, which combines a boat cruise, scenic truck ride, two kilometre hike and lunch. We embarked from Featherbed’s Cruise Café and joined a gaggle of excited tourists from all over South Africa and the rest of the world on the colourful water bus bobbing up and down next to the jetty.
As we cruised past Thesen Island and headed towards the Knysna heads, our guide regaled us with fascinating stories about the history of Knysna and we thoroughly enjoyed the views of this quaint town from the middle of the water.
Once we reached the other side of the lagoon, we docked in front of an attractive contemporary stone and glass building and made our way towards the brand spanking new trucks waiting to take us up the mountain. It felt like we had entered the set for Jurassic Park as we climbed up into the enormous camo-painted vehicles.
The engines kicked into gear and up we went – slowly but steadily hugging the narrow concrete path up the side of the Western Knysna head. So narrow was the track that there was literally 10cm of road to spare on either side, and with a steep drop off down the mountain, we collectively held our breath and tried not to look down.
The higher we went, the more spectacular the view and as we rounded the corner and travelled through the heads we could see all the way to Robberg in the East. The sea was a deep aquamarine and the jagged rocks a brilliant red colour, boasting caves and pinnacles with waves crashing around. As a white sailboat traversed the channel through the heads and out to sea, the incredible beauty of it all made me feel quite emotional and very lucky to be alive and in this marvellous location.
At the top of the mountain, we climbed out and headed on the path leading into thick dune forest. This hike, down the side of the mountain and along the coast at the foot of the Knysna heads must be the most Instagramable walk in the world. The stairs, bridges, tunnels and caves are absolutely phenomenal and we made sure to record our adventure with loads of selfies and photographs.
After a final walk through a green tunnel of flowering creepers, we emerged into Featherbed’s outdoor jungle restaurant, complete with an opulent three course buffet and shady tables under the trees.
The food was delicious, the environment pure perfection and altogether this experience rocketed to the top of our family’s global adventures list, one of the very best activities we have had the privilege to enjoy together.
I hope that you get a chance to visit Knysna with your family in the near future – you definitely won’t regret it. See below for pricing and contact details for our weekend in Knysna (prices as at June 2019).
Yours in travel
A 2 hour guided ride is R490 per person. Drivers must be 10 years and up and able to ride and balance a bicycle.
Oyster Creek Lodge
Winter special rate for locals is R950 per double room per night including breakfast. Regular rates range from R400 – R1145 per person sharing per night
Featherbed Co Eco Experience
The 4 hour Eco Experience & Buffet Lunch is R700 per Adult and R192 per Child